A town guide to Kings Hill
- Credit: Archant
Once an RAF fighter base and now a vibrant new community that just keeps on growing, let’s take a look at what Kings Hill has to offer
Recently the government announced the location of 14 new ‘garden villages’ to be built across the country, providing new housing, leisure facilities and job opportunities.
The idea isn’t a new one, but something which has proven hard to get right in the past. In these stand-alone new developments, it can be hard for residents to feel a real sense of community. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be a problem in Kings Hill.
In a recent report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Kings Hill was named one of the UK’s most successful new communities. Singled out for the quality of its architecture, excellent layout, transport links and parking, the area is praised for its design and clarity of vision.
But that’s not all. The institute also applauds Kings Hill’s commercial and community provision, public and private amenity spaces and gives a special mention to its effective community engagement.
It’s clear that this place has been well thought out by developers Liberty Property Trust, and as it steadily grows, it continues to be. It’s not just a case of laying new buildings out like Lego after all, but trying to create a whole new community where people should want to live, work and play.
Andrew Blevins, Liberty’s managing director, says: “Kings Hill’s development began more than two decades ago and in that time the world has changed. So, in order to respond to the needs of society today, the economy and planning policies, we have to change with it.
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“We take a long-term view and quality underpins everything we do. Following consultation with residents we have just revised our masterplan once again and have started work on the phased delivery of a new residential neighbourhood, providing much-needed homes.”
While this neighbourhood is underway, a new primary school – the third at Kings Hill – opened last year and an extension to the community centre, additional allotments, and pitches for the Kings Hill Sports Park are all in the pipeline.
The next phase in the area’s growth is also set to include a public park. Final plans were awaiting approval at the time of writing but the as-yet unnamed park will hopefully go ahead later this year. As Kings Hill is one of the highest points in the county, the new park is intended to be ‘a celebration of the big skies of Kent’.
Meanwhile, the area’s business provision continues to expand. Along with the headquarters of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, Kings Hill’s business park is home to dozens of companies. Law firm Cripps has a base here, as does Kimberly Clark and Pearson Whiffin Recruitment. Last year six new businesses moved into the site, including AXA and The Salvation Army.
If you’ve been to Kings Hill, you may have noticed a running theme. An old airport control tower converted into a Costa Coffee; a pub called The Spitfire; a statue of a wartime airman – they all point to a link with the sky.
In fact the land the community is built on was originally used as a landing area for aircraft during the First World War. Later it became Maidstone Airport, where pioneer aviators Alcock and Brown completed their transatlantic flight in the 1930s.
And later still, during the Second World War, it became RAF West Malling, where pilot heroes Guy Gibson and ‘Cat’s Eyes’ Cunningham were stationed. The airfield closed in 1969 but was still used for major air displays during the 1970s and 1980s.
Kings Hill’s ties with aviation are evident and a series of art installations around the development point to it, including ‘A Place of Landings’ – a series of roundels set into the paving around the control tower. One of them depicts slang terms that would have been used by the pilots and others commemorate the types of aircraft based here.
Another slice of Kings Hill history is strangely a link to The Beatles. The ‘Fab Four’ filmed here in 1967 for the 52-minute TV film which accompanied their album Magical Mystery Tour. Many of the interior scenes, such as the ballroom sequence for Your Mother Should Know, were filmed in the aircraft hangars, and an external sequence in I Am the Walrus was shot on the runways.
Amenities include Waitrose and Asda stores plus other convenience retail such as a pharmacy, along with three schools, a sports park, cricket pitch and two gyms, acres of woodland and many miles of foot and cycle paths. There’s also a popular 18-hole golf course at Kings Hill (www.kingshillgolf.com).
Slightly further afield is the charming market town of West Malling, with its pretty High Street and highly regarded shops, cafés and restaurants. Nearby leisure offerings include West Malling’s Manor Park Country Park and Larkfield Leisure Centre.
When it comes to food and drink, Kings Hill has Shepherd Neame pub The Spitfire, along with The Memphis Belle sandwich shop, a Domino’s pizza outlet, Costa, Humphrey’s fish and chips, the Gufaa Raja Indian restaurant, Sino Chinese and Thai Orchid – all around the village centre, Liberty Square.
In West Malling, places to try include The Swan, The Farm House, The Hungry Guest and Frank’s Restaurant and Mussel Bar.
Kings Hill in Bloom
Last year Kings Hill won two awards in the South & South East in Bloom competition. The development was awarded gold in the ‘Business Landscape of the Year’ category and silver gilt in the ‘Village/Town/City Centre’ category.
The judges, who included TV gardener4 Jim Buttress, noted the landscaping and beautiful surroundings, combined with a variety of plants creating interest throughout the year. They also praised the inclusion of conservation areas and were impressed by the encouragement given to schoolchildren with the introduction of raised allotment beds and fruit trees in the grounds of The Discovery School.
Susan Davies, Property and Estate manager for developer Liberty Property Trust, says: “As a developer we recognise how important people’s surroundings are and have a ‘landscape first’ policy to create beautiful outdoor spaces.
“This year alone 11,000 shrubs, 6,550 spring bulbs and 135 trees were put in, as well as swathes of wild flowers to add to the seasonal colour already provided by existing planting. There is also a recently created rose garden around the listed Control Tower, which is proving very popular.”
The Control Tower
After several years of careful restoration, the iconic Control Tower at Kings Hill is well on its way to becoming one of Kent’s key cultural centres. It’s already being used to exhibit artworks by professional artists in an ever-changing programme and at the end of last year it came alive to the sound of music for the first time.
Virtuoso cellist Richard Harwood gave a solo recital of works by leading film composers as part of Music@Malling – an international festival that brings music to historic buildings in and around West Malling.
Richard Harwood says: “It was a great pleasure to perform in the Control Tower and to be the first musician to do so. It is a great space with an incredible history and I couldn’t help imagining how the location was used during the Second World War. It is a wonderful amenity for the people of Kings Hill today and I hope it will be the venue for more musical events in future.”
Kings Hill is not short of property for sale. At the time of writing, prices started at £230,000 for a two-bedroom apartment, with three-bed semis on the market for between £380,000 and £425,000. At the top end of the market, there were several five-bed detached properties on for between £600,000 and £800,000.
Visit www.kings-hill.com for details about upcoming new-build developments.
Kings Hill is about nine miles west of Maidstone, set in the Borough of Tonbridge and Malling. It’s around 50 minutes to London Victoria via nearby West Malling station, and both the M20 and M25 are easily accessed.
Postcard from Kings Hill
I’m Dianne Kennaird, owner of Chic’n’Cheerful which offers catering (particularly afternoon teas), a unique vintage caravan mobile bar, craft lessons and lots more. I used to have a very high-pressure desk job and was wasting my evenings stressing about work.
So I decided to start the business to channel my energy into something I loved doing - looking after people and being creative. I was delighted when the business grew enough for me to quit my day job and run Chic’n’Cheerful full time.
We’ve catered at large music festivals, business functions, baby showers and hen parties. We’ve also created some stunning catwalk back drops with our hand-made paper flowers.
We’ve lived in Kings Hill for just over three years, and when we had our daughter Amber (now two) I really began to enjoy the family aspect: the fantastic parks, play groups and classes. I’ve built some great relationships, and really love how small businesses support and recommend each other here.
I wanted to do something fun and creative for everyone to enjoy, and be part of, so I started the Kings Hill Community Art Project, which involved a number of people coming together to yarn bomb the main statues and areas in the village centre. It was really well received, and made so many people smile!
On top of the community aspect, the history, the sculptures, and vast amounts of greenery, I’ve especially enjoyed walking around with Amber, saying hello to all sorts of people on our way, and being able to enjoy the wildlife.
We created a nature garden with a bug hotel, and have seen all kinds of birds from a nut hatch to a sparrow hawk (not at the same time, thankfully!).
Wish you were here!